Category Archives: home improvement

Brand New Coat

Unlike me, my living room walls are sporting a brand new coat this autumn.

We finally committed to a paint shade – Glidden’s Water Chestnut, a soft cream-beige I discovered on Young House Love – and broke out the brushes a few weekends ago.

Every time I paint, I go through the same roller coaster of emotions and this time was no different. First, there’s utter confusion about choosing a color, then elation upon making a choice and realizing we’re finally moving forward. Next, brief panic after seeing the paint first hit the walls (you know how paint always appears lighter when wet? Well, when wet, our new color matched our old paint color exactly), and major relief upon realizing the end result is better, not worse.

Before

After

And finally, a bit of disappointment after moving the furniture back in place and realizing that the room still looks pretty similar.

All of a sudden, I worried that things looked too dark, that there were too many competing dark colors – blues, reds, greens, browns. This sparked a mad urge to tear out our old roller shades, swap the chunky coffee table out for something smaller and cozier, get a lighter rug and furniture and buy a big ol’ mirror for over the fireplace in hopes of giving the illusion of a more spacious room.

Fortunately, my boyfriend was able to talk me out of doing anything drastic. We decided to focus our energy on improving the lighting situation and adding details like crown molding, and then assess what our next move should be. That’s fine by me – I’ve been itching to tear out that god-awful cheapo fan (our only source of living room light) since the moment we toured our house.

Lighting has always been too spare in here, so we’re going to try a semi-flush mount pendant with two bulbs to hopefully reflect light up and out.  Something like this lamp from Feiss.

Though if our ceiling (and budget) wasn’t so low, it might be fun to get a little crazy and try a vintage style chandelier, or one of the new sophisticated drum lights like this guy.

As for illuminating those dark corners, we briefly considered sconces on either side of the mantel, but decided against tearing into those walls. Now our options seem to be recessed lights in four corners of the room, or possibly just one or two new standing lamps. I’m crossing my fingers that we don’t have to go with the canned…

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Filed under home improvement, living room, paint

If a tree falls…

If a tree falls in the backyard and someone is around, does it make a sound? 

Surprisingly, not always.

 But let me backtrack a bit – quite a lot, actually.

 Nothing says autumn like a hot cup of cocoa in front of a roaring fire – which is why we decided to fill our defunct fireplace with a stove insert last year. There were too many issues with our flue for an affordable fix and eliminating the fireplace by tearing out the heavy brick chimney (seen here during a Christmas a few years past) would have been a major undertaking.

Deciding we wanted a stove was easy. Deciding on which kind of stove – gas or wood – was not. We went back and forth for months. On the one hand, a wood-burning insert would better fit the period of our home. Plus, I didn’t really want to spend a good chunk of change for a fireplace I knew was “fake” – I like real cream in my coffee, real butter in my brownies and real logs in my fireplace thank you very much (um, please don’t quote me on that). The idea of starting flames with a remote control just wasn’t very romantic, nor was the idea of paying for gas.  

On the other hand, we had to be realistic. We had a postage stamp-size backyard with one real tree – obviously we weren’t going to be able to collect the wood ourselves. We’d have to buy it. Or we’d have to borrow it from friends and family, which likely meant splitting wood in exchange.

 In the end, we bit the bullet and went with a Jotul cast iron gas insert. I worried that we would regret it.

 

Weeks later, it started raining. By the third or fourth day of gray skies and steady, pouring rain, it got windy. 

I was home alone working. Being a particularly paranoid person, with every shriek of wind I was certain our neighbor’s oak was going to come crashing through the office roof. During one particularly leaf-shaking gust, I thought I detected creaking and snapping so I did what any California girl raised with earthquake drills would do – I dove for cover under my desk, put my hands over my head and squeezed my eyes shut. 

Papers went flying, cats scattered and I heard the blood pounding in my ears – but I didn’t hear a crash. In fact, all I heard was eerie silence. I opened one eye, then the other, then got up the courage to peer out the window at the oak. It was still there. Slowly, I began breathing normally again. I went back to work for half an hour or so, then sauntered into the kitchen for my usual third dose of caffeine (maybe that’s why I’m always so paranoid). I casually glanced into the backyard as I took a sip of coffee. But my backyard wasn’t there anymore.

 

I hadn’t even considered that our only shade tree would fall. But there it was, all 80 feet of it, horizontal across the back fence. The soft, waterlogged ground must have absorbed the impact, because I didn’t hear a thing.

 Amazingly, it had fallen cleanly between our neighbor’s workshop and our own, missing those structures as well as three houses all well within 80 feet of the rootball. It did, however, take out the fence on one side, our little shed, and almost every shrub and flower we owned.

 

We did some research and learned that it was a tree-of-heaven, a species native to China, and its most common use is, get this – burning. Cleaning up literally tons of wood took months, and today that wood is still fueling the wood stoves of our dearest friends and relatives.

 So what’s the moral of the story? That’s a good question. I don’t really have one. Except that maybe things don’t always turn out like you plan. And that, despite the fact that we could have had enough free wood to make it through three cold seasons, I would highly recommend considering a gas stove, even if you’re skeptical. Turns out I like heating up the living room with the click of a button. You know what else I like? Being the only house on the block that doesn’t need to rake leaves come fall. I guess I’m just lazy like that.

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Filed under autumn, garden, home improvement, renovation

Color Collection

I think I have a problem.

I seem to be addicted to paint swatches. Which would be fine if I were a painter or interior decorator – but I’m most definitely not.

On the way to the grocery store or post office, I find myself swinging by Home Depot or the hardware store more and more often. Before I know it, I’m carrying out a fresh stack of color. I almost wish they charged a few cents per swatch – the fact that they’re free makes it too easy. I would totally splurge on the full-collection professional paint decks, except I’m afraid that viewing so many options at once would make my head explode. I mean, we only have 51/2 rooms and a hallway.

And you know what the worst part is? After collecting swatches of every color in the rainbow for, like, years, we’re finally going to paint the living room…beige.

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Filed under home improvement, interiors, old houses, paint, renovation